March 7th, 2010
11:24 AM ET
9 years ago

Retiring Dem: GOP doesn't want to dance on health care

Retiring Rep. Brian Baird said Sunday that Republicans see health care reform as 'a potent political weapon.'

Retiring Rep. Brian Baird said Sunday that Republicans see health care reform as 'a potent political weapon.'

Washington (CNN) – A retiring House Democrat who is himself unsure whether he will back his own party’s health care reform bill criticized congressional Republicans Sunday for their lack of bipartisanship on the issue of health care.

“Tom DeLay was on ‘Dancing with the Stars,’” Rep. Brian Baird, D-Washington, said on CNN’s State of the Union, referring to the Republican former House Majority leader, who was also a guest on the show.

Later: DeLay explains turn on DWTS

“We don’t have a dance partner,” Baird said. “We don’t have someone on the other side who is seriously willing to say, ‘If you do these things, you will have our support.’ And the reason is they see it as such a potent political weapon.”

Assuming - as many in his party have recently – that the final health care reform legislation will get no Republican support, Baird defended use of a Senate procedural measure called reconciliation which allows certain budgetary bills in the Senate to be passed with just 51 votes.

“The choice you’re left with is a majority vote which I think most people think is how we ought to do things anyway,” Baird told CNN Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley. “And, secondly, the Republicans used reconciliation on multiple times including for the mother of all deficit increases, the Bush tax cuts.”

Baird previously voted against the health care reform bill that passed in the House. Now the Washington Democrat is trying to determine whether he will support a final bill based largely on the version passed by the Senate but modified slightly to address some issues of particular concern to the White House and House Democrats.

Related video: Dem unsure on health care

Baird, who was a practicing neuropsychologist before being elected to Congress, told Crowley he supports the idea of overhauling the health care system. “We have to do something and I actually applaud President Obama and the Democratic Party for taking this difficult challenge on,” he said.

“The question is: Is this the best way we can do reform?,” Baird said of his reservations. “It is very complicated. It will be expensive.” Baird quickly noted that both the House and the Senate bill would be largely paid for and have both been projected to reduce the deficit over time.

Baird said he would have approached crafting a bill “a good bit differently.”

“I would like to see us start and say ‘What are the things we can agree on?’”

The Democrat told Crowley he thought most Americans agree that “you should not discriminate against pre-existing conditions. I think it makes a lot of sense to be able to buy policies across state lines so you have competition and you can carry your policy with you if you move or lose your job.

“The complexity, I think, worries a lot of people,” Baird added.

Baird also said Sunday that he is not swayed by the notion of voting in favor the bill because his impending retirement means he will face no political consequences for supporting an unpopular piece of legislation.

“My personal struggle is, quite frankly, could we not do this in a much more simple, elegant, direct, straightforward way? I think we could. I doubt I’m going to get a chance to do that, so the difficult choice for some of us is to say: ‘This is not the bill I would write, by a darn sight, but it is certainly better than the status quo. What would we do if we don’t have this option?’”

Asked by Crowley whether he would vote against a final bill after determining it did not met his personal criteria even if that vote meant that one of the president’s top domestic agenda items would not pass, Baird did not hesitate: “Yes.”

But Baird quickly sought to clarify. The retiring Democrat said it would be “a tragedy” if some type of health care reform was not enacted. “And so that’s the choice. I don’t think this bill is what I would like to see us do if I ran the universe, as it were, but I don’t get to do that so the status quo is unsustainable.”

After a year of legislative work on health care reform on Capitol Hill, the White House has recently stepped in to try to move the process forward. Right now congressional Democrats are waiting for the administration to release final legislative language for a bill that would be put to a vote in both chambers through the reconciliation procedure. The bill crafted by the White House would contain a number of tweaks to the health care reform bill passed by the Senate late last year. In order to harmonize the provisions of the two separate bills passed by the House and Senate last year, the House will be asked to pass the Senate bill unchanged and then both chambers would be asked to vote on the White House bill.

Senate Democrats have had to fall back on the reconciliation process after losing the critical 60th vote in their caucus when Republican Scott Brown won a recent special election to occupy the seat held for decades by the late Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts.

Follow Martina Stewart on Twitter: @MMStewartCNN


Filed under: Democrats • Health care • House • Popular Posts • State of the Union
soundoff (130 Responses)
  1. if I was crazy, I'd be a conservative too

    The major issues of the GOP have now been included, and they want no part of helping over 35 million Americans. Since the bill has passed with 60 votes in the senate, I would hope that the house democrats would pass the bill, and address the three amendments by using a majority vote in the senate.

    March 7, 2010 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  2. if I was crazy, I'd be a conservative too

    The GOP must be stopped!

    March 7, 2010 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  3. if I was crazy, I'd be a conservative too

    One does get tired of those right wingnuts who watch Fox (1.5 million) who think they speak for the majority of Americans.

    March 7, 2010 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  4. The Lady

    I keep hearing our congress representatives say they have issuse with this bill. My question is how many bills have been passed that did not have room for improvement down the road. You have to start somewhere and of course without the Republican support of anything we have to work with what we can.

    March 7, 2010 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  5. Richie in Mass

    Keep blaming Republicans. Democrats have the majority and can force it through if they want. The overwhelming public opinion is against THIS bill. If it was such a good bill they wouldn't hesitate. The Democrats are trying to save their jobs. This bill will do nothing between now and November to help their election. It does nothing but raise taxes and cut medicade for the next 4 years. If they really wanted to pass a healthcare bill. Make it enacted right away. They have to delay it so they can raise money through taxes to pay for it which makes the 2nd 10 years a huge mess.

    March 7, 2010 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  6. Sparky

    of course not.....did ANYone really expect them to?

    March 7, 2010 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  7. annie against biased news

    demoncrats have had the majority all along and can't get this evil government rationed hellcare passed. The whole thing should be scrapped and started over with slowly but surely making a few reforms at a time and seeing how those work and what adjustments need to be made then moving on to the next step! What is the big rush to destroy our country?

    March 7, 2010 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  8. GI Joe

    Pass it and spend 2 years getting fixes in place

    The GOP wants to stop it and NEVER get around to doing the PERFECT health care reform bill (in other words, keep getting their campaign finances from health insurance profits).

    March 7, 2010 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  9. Realist

    Actually, the public opinion is overwhelmingly in FAVOR of health care reform. Some people want a more liberal bill and a small minority want to do nothing. Of course, the media gets a lot of money from the right, so they omit this small fact. The public wants reform and passing this bill will begin to address what most Americans want–to end the status quo.

    Don't believe the lies from the right when they claim most Americans want what they want. They don't.

    March 7, 2010 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  10. Florence

    The news media is guilty for not reporting facts about the health care issues but instead they prefer sensationalizing controversies. We spent the whole summer talking about is the Obama administration taking us down the road of socialism. CNN was going down that path buying into the talking points of the RNC and tea baggers. That was a disservice to the people out there who really needed to hear honest debates about the merits of healthcare.

    Republicans can sit on the sidelines but Democrats should stand up for what's right, and what's right is a healthcare reform that will stop the insurance companies from raising rates that people can't afford but getting for little for the money.

    I have health insurance and I am willing to pay to help another person get coverage. I think it's right that we think about other people struggles. I hope we can see the bill pass soon before the media screw Americans again with false arguments.

    March 7, 2010 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  11. Courtney Anne

    I have a message for all House and Senate Democrats. If you don't vote on health care reform, your job is in jeopardy. It seems to me that they all have already forgotten why Obama got elected. He ran on health care reform, because the system only benefits the rich. Democrats stop acting so cowardly! Don't you know by now the Republicans will oppose anything that you put forward. Remember, they are the party of "no".

    Courtney from Ft. Myers, FL

    March 7, 2010 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  12. College Student

    Why are people still blaming the republicans for not helping pass this bill. If I recall the democrats had a super majority but not even people in their own party liked the bill enough to vote for it unless if they got bribed. How is that the republicans fault?

    March 7, 2010 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  13. Rob Johnson

    "the Republicans used reconciliation on multiple times including for the mother of all deficit increases, the Bush tax cuts.”

    Thank you Mr. Baird! Every Democrat should be screaming this from the rooftops right now. Even by GOP standards, it is remarkably disingenuous to pretend that this kind of thing doesn't happen all the time in Congress.

    Last but not least, don't forget that a health care bill did pass the Senate with a filibuster-proof 60 votes before Brown ever got elected in Massachusetts. At this point, we're just haggling over details between the House and Senate versions.

    March 7, 2010 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  14. Obama cooked his own goose

    In a last desparate oronic gasp, Obama turns to the GOP for bi partisan support on a bill that was drafted behind closed doors in the bowels of the Capitol Building, in the shadows with lobbyists and corrupt Dems with no input from Republicans.... and now Obama and his party whine about the lack of GOP support. well Mr Oblamo neither the GOP not 75% of Americans want you bad biss passed.

    March 7, 2010 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  15. GI Joe

    GOP has had one sweet ride for 14 months – yell NO NO NO NO and do TV interviews with blantant lies.

    Bet they dread this ending – they may have to WORK from now on (once they get back from yet another vacation). ha ha ha ha ha

    March 7, 2010 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  16. Beef King

    Note to the retiring democrat......
    This is not a dance. This is REAL life for us who aren't privileged like politicians.

    March 7, 2010 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  17. joel

    I find it hard to believe that anyone in this country is stupid enough to believe that the republicans are doing this for us, NO they are working for corporate America. The republican powers that be know that a large part of there base is naive and frightened and the prey on this fact. If you are a middle class American you want health care reform.

    March 7, 2010 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  18. peggy

    The republicans can't support health care reform b/c they want to be reelected and need the money they get from special interests. They can't be FOR anything that is in the best interest of the american people if it goes against the best interest of the special interests that fund their campaign. Money speaks!

    March 7, 2010 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  19. Bill

    Baird fails to mention that every time the Republicans used reconciliation it was in connection with monetary policy, health care is not monetary policy. I hope they pass and shove down your collective throats this health care bill, and you choke on it. At 82 years old I don't care. you voted for obama, you deserve it, and al the other plans he has for your life.

    March 7, 2010 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  20. jules sand-perkins

    A gentleman whose request for a dance is declined has several options. None of them is to try to con the lady into dancing.

    March 7, 2010 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  21. Chris

    Remember "Healthcare will be Obama's Waterloo." For the GOP completely blocking any sort of reform is a means to an end. It's all about destroying the President and the Democrats so the Republicans can return to power. They care nothing at all about helping the American people who are denied coverage or who are being hurt by runaway insurance premium hikes. Ever since the push for reform began the Right have held a campaign of obstructionism, misinformation and outright lies. After over a year full of debates, town halls, and congressional votes, their latest tactic is a cry to start the whole thing over. This is a blatant attempt to create fatigue in the public and delay reform until the next elections and hope the GOP are back in the majority.

    Does anyone really think if the Republicans are back in control they will ever react any sort of meaningful Health Care Reform? They never even brought it up the entire decade they were in control of Congress. The Right Wing is blindly commited to failed ideology of the Free Marketplace. Their "solution" is to do absolutely nothing and simply have faith that the Free Market will magically solve everything. Although it has been shown time and time again that it never happens!

    March 7, 2010 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  22. Linda

    Florence, it could not be said better. I would like to know why the media does not call out anyone they interview when they tell a lie. That is their JOB! They know the facts when they ask questions and yet they allow lies and twisting of facts to be perpetuated. Absolutely shameful. They would gain back the respect of the people if they would get at the truth more and less opionating.

    March 7, 2010 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  23. Indy

    It is 100% clear that the Republicans have no interest in helping anyone but themselves. Since there is not one republican that will support the reform, the proof is that they would rather use political power rather then help average Americans.If any one republican cared about someone other then themselves they would have worked towards getting this most important bill put through.The republicans have a long history of only helping the rich and not one of them should be rewarded by being re elected as they continue to ruin the country for the love of power and money.Republicans continue to keep their hands full of blood from their fellow citizens

    March 7, 2010 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  24. Jumpmaster48

    Where were all the repub concerns and t-baggers when Bush, with a repub congress, spent us into oblivion with borrowed money. Money for wars he didn't even include in his budgets. You should all go kiss Rush's ring you hypocrits.

    March 7, 2010 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  25. leonardofru

    The major issues the GOP and the American people have asked for are not in the bill. There is no out now for Obama and the Dems. Pass it and you will never be given a seat at the table when the American people regain control of Congress. Fail to pass it and the lunatics who support this socialist garbage will vote against you.

    March 7, 2010 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
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